To the editor,
Many people for over a century have studied the life of Giovanni Maria Mastai Ferretti, who later was elevated to become Pope Pius IX. He was born 13 May 1792 in Senigallia, in the Marche district of the Papal States and died 1878 at Vatican City.
It seems that in the 1700’s, false myths (almost comparable to Old Wives’ Tales) sprang-up regarding the honorable fraternity of Freemasonry. In part this was due to communication being poor and several Catholic Popes were secluded and wrongly perceived “new things” (then) such as ‘Freedom of Thought’ as a threat to their domain. I can say that most Masonic groups are honorable. However, in foreign lands, there were isolated cases of dubious, fake groups
Pope Pius IX served as Pope from 1846-1878. On an 1846 medal it shows his Papal vestments has a Triangle with The Eye of Providence (commonly known as the All-seeing Eye of Almighty God) surrounded by radiant ‘rays of glory’.
Even the most charitable of biographers of Pope Pius admit that he was originally ‘liberal’ in his thinking. Connotation means everything. Spreading a liberal amount of ointment on a person’s neck or chest if they have a head-cold is good. Being conservative or modest in your dress or your spending, is good.
Was Pope Pius IX both a liberal and a conservative? Yes.
At the top of the reverse of the Papal Medal of 1846 is, again, an All-seeing Eye of Almighty God within a triangle. It was designed by artist Giuseppe Cerbara. Below are three female Angels. One, is holding an Olive-leaf of Peace. The middle one is holding the balance-scales and sword (Justice); and the far right one is holding down the sword that Justice holds, signifying “Mercy.” At the bottom is the year 1846 in Roman numerals. Life was good for Pius IX for several years.
His early priestly assignments in Peru, Chile, and Cuba, at age 35, he was named Cardinal Mastai of Spoleto, Italy. By then, his philosophical attitudes began to change. The conclave was steeped in a factional division between right and left and Cardinal Mastai-Ferretti won, thereby becoming Pope Pius IX.
It was long-rumored that Mastai-Ferretti joined a Masonic Lodge either in Chile (or possibly in Peru). He joined out of respect for “freedom” and “liberty”, which many of us in America take for granted, in today’s world. Pius IX championed ideals that most Americans hold dear in our U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. Those concepts were foreign ideas to much of Europe and previous popes. Pius IX struggled to hold onto both temporal (earthly power as the ‘sovereign Head-of-State at Vatican City-State’) as well as the spiritual Head of millions of worldwide Catholics (including some of my ancestors).
Pope Pius IX began to view “Freedom of Speech (and of the Press) as incompatible with Catholicism.” Such viewpoints would be considered archaic and repulse most modern Catholics. Yet, he had to “please” both liberals and traditional conservatives. Pius IX could be seen always “as a liberal in heart, and a conservative in faith.”
The Vatican after 1870 until today’s reign of Pope Francis remains a little patch of land, yet it is a Sovereign City-State with Pope Francis as “Head-of-State.” I pray for his continued surgery recovery and more good years ahead for his papacy. I see a lot of parallels between Pope Pius IX and Pope Francis. I respect both.
James A. Marples